Bill Blogsmith

Q. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. Q. What is thy only comfort in life and death? A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ

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I write and illustrate, live in Oregon, love God and my family, and that's about all anyone really needs to know.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

WOMEN IN THE BIBLE 1: Eve a

Thank heaven for little girls…

Eve, the first woman, is where we begin our survey of the women of God in the Bible. Her story is the story of more than the fall, it is the story of all women everywhere for all of history. Her story is the story of the conflict of all time, the story of relationships, love, and marriage. In Eve’s life we find the life of women until Our Lord returns: the burdens and the joys, the sins and the triumphs.

When we meet Eve, she has no name yet; her nametag just reads “The Woman.” Don’t be concerned though, Adam just means “The Man.” If they had a pet cat, it probably was named “The Cat.” After all, it’s not like Adam had to distinguish between her and other women.
And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."
Genesis 2:18

God has looked at His creation and saw it was good, He saw no sin; He saw everything doing what it should in its place. Except… there is an emptiness in the heart of Adam, a lack that God sees is not good, a part of creation that is not complete. Adam is lonely; even before the fall and the introduction of sin into the world, he is incomplete. Adam is made in God’s image, in the likeness of the Lord who is three in one. The triune God has perfect communion between the three persons of the trinity and is never alone, He is constantly in a perfect relationship of love. Adam, bearing God’s image, lacks this constant love and ever present relationship, and feels alone. Further, the man faces alone his task of overseeing and caring for the creation God has given him, and finds no helper suited to him in all the animals of the world. Sure, the monkey is fun and has hands, but it cannot be a true companion in the work, it cannot share Adam’s thoughts and dreams. The dog is terribly loyal and loving, but it cannot help tending the garden and keeps digging up the seeds. Adam needs something more.

Why were the animals not good enough for the job? They were insufficient not only because they were not the kind of social company Adam needs, but because they were not worthy to work with him, side by side in the job of caring for creation. He needed a helper that would work beside him and be his companion, not simply a creature to be his pet or inferior. A pet can be a comfort and a source of cheer, but Spot can never be a true companion to face life with.
And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." Genesis 2:23
God responds to this in perfect wisdom, by creating a woman, a new creature in the world that is like man, but one which compliments him by being different. The two faced the creation shoulder to shoulder, as co-workers caring for God’s world. What’s more, the two first humans Adam and the woman were without fear, without shame before each other. Adam and the Woman are described as “naked and unashamed,” not because we should be ashamed at being naked before our mate, and not simply because they were without clothing.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:25
Most people have had a dream where they show up somewhere naked, always somewhere important or where their peers will be: school, work, church, that kind of place. Always the dream follows a certain pattern, you go about your normal day until you realize people are laughing at you, and only then do you realize your state of dress! The humiliation is complete, you feel laid bare, helpless. It’s not so much your lack of clothes, although that’s disconcerting, but the fact that you’re utterly exposed and defenseless. That burning emotion you feel is shame.

Unlike relationships in a fallen, sinful world, Adam and the woman had no fear of the other learning their secrets, they had no self-consciousness, nothing to hide and nothing to gain over the other. There were not unsaid complaints, no ideas left alone for how they’d be received, there was no hidden frustration or disapproval of some action. Not only was the love they shared that pure and perfect, but also they were without sin and did not do things that would prompt such a reaction in the other. Truly were utterly naked before each other – bodily, yes, but also in their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and hopes. Not just physically, but personally, completely.

Surely there can be no better relationship among mankind than Adam and his wife, the first woman and man, the first marriage. Standing equal and without shame or secrets, the first couple worked side-by-side for God in love and understanding. Such is the marriage all young couples dream of and wish for when they stand before the pastor and give their vows, the dream of all weddings. No wonder it was called paradise!

As great as this paradise was, as wonderful as such a full, happy life was, it only serves to help understand how very sad and awful the fall into sin was. Exchanging this joy, Adam and The Woman defied God and questioned His wisdom. The first to be tempted by the serpent was The Woman, she faced the craftiest of all God’s creatures alone. Satan tries to appeal to her sense of justice – why, God denies her this beautiful tree that is so very delectable looking, that’s just not fair! Naturally this ignores the entire creation that humanity has full access to, focusing on what is forbidden, but how very appealing that often is to us, isn’t it? From there, it’s all downhill, gathering momentum and mass like an avalanche.

What we don’t have, we want. What we have often seems less important than what we lack, no matter how much we have and how much we should be grateful to God for His mercy and providence. The 10th commandment prohibiting coveting hangs there at the end of the tablet, with the last word to linger on our memories, a reminder. Sure, most people can claim to have kept the technical letter of the law for most commandments – I never have carved an idol, I haven’t gone to court and lied, I haven’t killed someone. But that last one, aye, there’s the rub, to quote Hamlet. Just wanting something is not improper, Jesus teaches us to pray for what we lack and need. But when we start to want what someone else has, there’s when the trouble starts. And that’s what the Woman was tempted by: having what God alone has, a perfect wisdom and understanding of good and evil. But like so often, she had no idea what that really meant. Now we know, don’t we? We all know.

Some want to condemn The Woman for being responsible for the fall, after all, she was the first eat of the apple and offer it to Adam. But despite her sin, it was not until Adam sinned that God came to talk to them, and the fall came. Why? It was as if God was waiting for something before He acted.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
When God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, he completed the lack that Adam had earlier – he was incomplete, lonely, lacking. With The Woman, Adam was made complete; he was joined to his missing piece. The way God takes the rib from Adam to create The Woman is an image of the rest of him that he was lacking, joined to Adam in marriage. Look at how God describes this relationship, before the fall: joined to become one flesh. This describes more than the physical act of marriage, it describes the entire relationship, its meaning. Together, the Woman and the Man Adam are one person. Until both sinned, until both fell, the fall was not complete. They were joined to be one representative of humanity.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. Genesis 3:17
Where once Adam and The Woman stood together in sinless love and perfect relationship, now they stand together in sin. The result is instant. Wracked by shame, each tries to cover up, to hide behind skins and from not only God, but each other’s gaze. No longer unashamed before each other, Adam and The Woman now have things they want to keep from each other, they feel vulnerable, threatened by the other knowing and seeing so very much.

Not only did sin enter the world, but through it fear and the loss of true relationship. Sin shattered man’s relationship with God, but it also shattered man’s relationship with fellow man and in particular within God’s gift bringing the two into one person: the marriage covenant.

To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Genesis 3:16


God warned that all who eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would die. Now He comes to the first couple and pronounces His judgment. To the man Adam, he lays a heavy burden of work and constant failure – nothing will turn out quite as he plans and then only by great suffering and effort. To The Woman, God lays a heavy burden of suffering in the time of what is often the source of greatest joy: childbirth. But in addition to this, God declares that man will rule over woman.

Where previously the two were one, sin marred this union with secrets and shame and pride. Where previously both walked side by side in partnership and as equals working the garden for God, sin brought a curse that put one under the other. Of all the tragedies, horrors, and heart-wrenching sadness that the fall has brought to our world, surely this has to be one of the greatest. Adam and The Woman seem the perfect representative for us, choosing what we would have in their place. Who among us would have done differently? The Bible teaches us that none would – they did exactly what we would have, given the circumstances.

Women are given a very particular curse, more subtle than man’s. Where men are cursed with facing constant difficulty and failure in their work that leads to what I believe is man’s besetting sin (sloth and a failure to take responsibility), women have a different burden. Women are said to “desire” their husband, and that he will rule over the woman. How is the first a curse, is a woman not to desire her husband, should this not be proper and right? Did The Woman not desire Adam before the fall?

Some argue this, saying that sex is part of the curse. They point to the pain of childbirth as the theme, and that this means that sexual desire is what is meant here, a desire brought about by the curse that should be fought. But the admonition of God before the fall in Genesis 1:28 is "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” This at the very least suggests God did not find any particular fault in sexual desire or activity, not to mention Paul’s teaching on the subject.

According to Hebrew scholars, the word “desire” used here is the same word as used in Genesis 4:7, where it describes sin seeking to control Cain. The word seems to mean less desire in the sense of an attraction and more in a will to dominate and control. God lays a burden on The Woman to desire to be the mistress of her husband to control and dominate him, but always to be in a place of submission to him. Woman’s besetting sin, I believe, is to desire to control their husbands.

Like the curse upon man that brings laziness and a failure to take responsibility, not every single woman suffers equally or even greatly from this sin. It is rather a tendency that women in general need to struggle against in their lives, like men must struggle against their tendency. The two work together in a sinister partnership – the man would rather watch TV and play World of Warcraft than take responsibility in the relationship, would rather give in and not cause trouble. The woman takes over because, after all, he’s such a bum and you can’t expect men to be any better, and someone has to get the job done! Each feeds the other, making their sin easier and the relationship suffers in the process as resentment and frustration grows.

The first sin is a perfect example of this dynamic, if you’ll forgive a little reading between the lines. Eve takes the apple to Adam, who rather than cause trouble and take responsibility, gives in to Eve and temptation and eats the apple. It’s just easier that way. How easy men make it for their wives! How easy women make it for their husbands by taking over where he should be strong! God help us all.

Which takes us to next chapter…

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
· What was the only thing God does not describe as good in His creation?
· Why are Adam and The Woman described as naked and unashamed in Genesis 2:23?
· Why does Genesis 3:17 describe the couple as ashamed?
· What is man’s besetting sin?
· How can men better fight this tendency?
· What is woman’s besetting sin?
· How can women better fight this tendency?
· How can both help the other with their struggle against sin?
· How does God help us in this battle?

Questions for deeper study
· Is coveting different from ambition?
-This is a difficult area of discussion, but the motivation of coveting is always rejection of God’s wisdom and authority, and desiring things for ourselves and our pleasure rather than for the benefit of others and to serve God. Coveting targets what others own, ambition targets what we hope to achieve, although it too can be sinful and rejecting the authority of God.
· In the context of Ephesians 5:18-33 how do we understand submission?
-Note that it calls for submission between both members of the marriage to each other and primarily to God. Note also that God commands men to treat their wives in love and sacrifice as Jesus does His church.
· How does God provide for us in our need for forgiveness and in healing broken relationships?
-Always, this points toward the cross. While there is a great deal of advice and there are many commands in scripture, the way God provides for a broken and sinful world is through the gospel.
· Why did God set up this relationship, was there grace even in this curse?
-Before sin entered the world, in a state of sinless innocence, we needed no authority and no structure save that of worshipping God. But with sin and rebellion, humanity requires a structure of authority, which God establishes even in the midst of the curse.
Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive us for our sins and failure to obey your will, our rebellious spirit that sees only what we have not rather than gives thanks for what we have. Thank you for the forgiveness we know we have in Christ, and the certainty that through the Holy Spirit we learn and grow until the day our Lord returns again to take us home. In Christ Jesus’ matchless name, Amen

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent. Thank you.

6:32 PM  

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